Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

Author: Admin (Page 1 of 8)

Referee profile: Katie Kilbane

Katie Kilbane is a wealth of experience when it comes to wielding the whistle. Having refereed for 12 years now she has taken charge of games at as high a level as Women’s AIL, J1 and U20s in both Connacht and Munster.

Kilbane first played rugby during her time in university, “I had wanted to play for years but dad wouldn’t let me, he thought it was bad enough that I was breaking myself playing football, so I definitely shouldn’t play rugby.” But by that point, she was an adult and instead of joining the college football team, she signed up for rugby.

While playing with the university she also join Galwegians and played a season in the Women’s AIL, but says she didn’t keep it up due to other commitments “I was rowing, I was playing county football, I was playing rugby with the college and then I took up reffing on top of that so it was just a lot”.  

It was clear that once Kilbane had a taste for the sport she fully immersed herself in it. After playing for about a year she had already signed up for a refereeing course. When asked what the appeal to refereeing was she responded with a laugh “baiting literal baiting”, from a friend and referee Mike Forrestal who ebbed her to “try refereeing a real game”.

Having refereed GAA from under 12s and getting her qualifications as a GAA ref at the age of 16 Kilbane says she was always “weirdly interested”, in refereeing “I spent my Junior Cert results night refereeing a camogie match instead of going out”, so with the interest and experience it was a decision that just made sense to her.

Since becoming a referee the 29 year old has worked her way up through the ranks where she now takes charge of games in J1 U20s and in the Women’s AIL.

Some might imagine that being a female referee in the men’s game would be difficult but Kilbane says otherwise “men can be easier than women, I guess it’s a little different for me as I have played with the women and some of them know me personally where as with the men they don’t care if your male or female, donkey or a dog as long as you’re doing a good job. But it’s a very enjoyable sport and a very welcoming sport that’s a good degree of respect there from men’s and women.”

A highlight in Kilbane’s career came in 2017 while she was refereeing in Munster.  She was chosen to officiate as a touch judge during the first-ever women’s Barbarian series.  “it was probably the closest to a professional environment that I’ve been in”. The Barbarians came out as clear winners over Munster in Thomond Park with a 19-0 victory. 

Kilbane stopped playing the sport a couple of years back through various different injuries and that was when she decided to focus on refereeing which in return gave her the outlet to stay involved in the sport “It was my way of competitively staying within the game not everybody joins refereeing to be competitive about it and to try and get to the top, I do. It gave me a sense of purpose within the game when I couldn’t physically play it anymore.”

Without referees our game wouldn’t be able to function but refereeing isn’t there just to facilitate the player but for people like Katie it’s away to stay involved and competitive and an overall  great sport to be involved in “So if your falling out of the game it’s a great way to stay involved in it at a high level and it’s also just a great way of giving back if you want to volunteer but coaching isn’t for you it’s a great way to get involved and there’s something there for everyone.”

Referee profile: Eoin Staunton

“I nearly prefer it to playing myself. You’re there in the middle of the action without being in the play.”

At the age of just 20 years old Eoin Staunton is the youngest Referee affiliated with Galwegians.

About six months ago Eoin began his journey to become a referee. The decision came following a loss of interest in the playing aspect of the game. Having spent 14 years playing with Galwegians joining at the age of 6, rugby had a strong place in Eoin’s life but he had begun to lose interest following a year with the 20s.  

Rather than hanging up his boots, Eoin took an alternative route to stay involved in the club.

When a message came out from the committee that the Connacht branch were to be running referee courses Eoin said he’d chance his arm at refereeing. “One of the guys showed me the link to the reffing course and I said sure why not I’ll give it a go. I went and did the course and I learned a lot, and now I really enjoy reffing.”

Following his decision to start refereeing Eoin underwent 2 months of online modules on the laws of the game and on how to identify concussion.

Once these modules were completed Eoin went on to touch judge two games before taking charge of his first U13s game which took him by surprise “It was a high enough pace and the game kind of flowed because both teams had a real willingness to play rugby.”

Fitness is a key part of being a good referee for Eoin. “You have to be able to keep up with the play, because if something happens you have you be there to make the decision”.

When starting up college with ATU, Eoin returned to athletics where he trains as a middle-distance runner. “I do athletics with the college and that kind of training would keep me fairly fit for reffing. Some of the stuff I do in training would be similar to what I would do in match situation”.

As a ref, you get to see the fun side of rugby and the banter between teams. While reffing a recent Wegians vs Jes game Eoin had plenty of moments when he had to “hold back on laughing”, as both sides were very familiar with each other with and some players playing for both sides. Eoin recalls one player asking the other to “ease off a bit” in the scrum.

Since qualifying Eoin has been in action most weekends, sometimes taking charge of 2 games a day which he says can take its physical toll. “You can definitely feel it in the legs”. 

Staunton is very much enjoying his switch to refereeing and even though he is taking it one match at a time, he one day hopes to progress from club level.

“I guess I’m just taking it day by day and listening to those more experienced people and just trying to improve after every performance. Eventually I would like this to be a career”. 

For Eoin it’s a great way to stay involved with the sport without actually playing and that’s why he thinks more people should get into refereeing. “I would definitely recommend that people to get into reffing a lot more. It’s not the easiest job in the world but you definitely get enjoyment out of it”.

And it’s not just about your own enjoyment. Eoin says it’s great for the next generation of rugby players too. “For younger age groups you’re kind of like their coach. You’re coaching them on how to play. Not only do you benefit but you know you’re helping someone else benefit from getting experience and improving them for when they get older”.

If you have an interest in becoming a referee or would like to learn more please contact your local branch officer.

Mary Healy and Nicole Fowley. The Last Dance?

By Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Mary Healy and Nicole Fowley reflect on their on-field journey as Mary plays her final game in the green jersey.

Following the recent Women’s Inter Pro series with over 20 Galwegians represented in the Connacht squad, captain Mary Healy and Galwegians captain Nicole Fowley reflect on their journeys with both Galwegians and Connacht as Mary enters her final season before hanging up the boots, breaking up one of the most consistent half-back partnerships in both Galwegians and Connacht.

Although a disappointing and difficult campaign for Connacht with only one win out of three matches it was a great opportunity for a lot of the younger women to make a start at provincial level with an unseen 12 new caps that proves the development of women’s rugby within the province and within Galwegians.

For Mary rugby didn’t come around until she was in her third year of college. Mary Joined Galwegians by chance back in 2012 at the age of 22 when GMIT failed to put together a team. Mary first played for Connacht in 2013 going in for an open trial and being selected as scrum half for her first Inter Pros. Mary impressed in the Inter Pros earning herself an invitation into the Irish set up as a guest where she would train and attend camp learning from the coaches and those around her. 

Mary was determined to put herself in contention for an Irish jersey putting in the extra hours with the former scrum half and Galwegian’s head coach at the time Cory Brown who taught her all she needed to know “in the space of about six months I went from not being able to pass to being able to pass and then I was actually in contention”.  All her hard work paid off when Mary earned her first cap in the Stoop in Twickenham in the first Women’s International November series in 2015. Mary has since gone on to win a total of 14 Irish caps.

For Nicole, it was a different story altogether growing up in Sligo she played Gaelic football and soccer with a bit of tag rugby on the side. Nicole started off her rugby journey with Sligo Rfc to learn more about the sport and have a bit of fun on the pitch it wasn’t until she was in college that she began to play rugby more frequently joining Railway Union and traveling up to Dublin from Sligo whenever she could to train. Although she really enjoyed rugby, Gaelic and soccer still came first and only for a combination of Railway player-coach, Mere Baker seeing her potential and Connacht drafting her into the squad, she was eventually chose to dedicate herself to rugby.

 Following her decision to focus on rugby Nicole moved to Galway in 2016, “to play at the highest level” which was with Galwegians. From there she began to work hard putting in all the “early mornings and late evenings” which paid off when she was selected to pay for Ireland and she says that she “hasn’t looked back since”, now with eight Irish caps in her back pocket.

Both women being so ambitious agreed that there were many sacrifices to be made to reach the level that both of them played at. Mary says that when she played for Ireland “something had to give usually a social life and your team becomes everything”, the grueling routine of early mornings in the gym before work, after work running sessions which Nicole remembers fondly before continuing on to club training allowed no time for anything other than rugby.

Having served their time on International duty the pair seem to be enjoying life at home with Galwegians which has had a long-lasting effect on them. For Nicole “it’s the comradery and the friendships that we’ve made down through the last number of years, it’s very much a family vibe which I think is kind of our culture and our ethos that everyone is welcome.” 

The pair make a fantastic duo on the pitch but it also works well off the pitch with Nicole popping the question back in August. Having been together nearly eight years they agree that their understanding of each other benefits their game in many ways. But like all half-back partnerships it’s not always smooth sailing “don’t get me wrong every now and then we do kill each other on the pitch, but you would if you were any other 9 and 10. But what happens on the pitch absolutely stays on the pitch,” stated Nicole while Mary insisted that it was never her fault.

With Mary stepping away at the end of this season to focus on her career she has set a goal to see Connacht win an Inter Pros be it promoting women’s rugby to helping with skills and passing sessions. 

But for now Mary and Nicole continue to steer the ship for the women’s firsts in the AIL. Off the pitch, you will often see them on the side-line or helping out with the minis on Saturday mornings inspiring the younger generations and sometimes you might even see them in the club bar making one of the Galwegians Women’s infamous TikTok’s.

Hugh Gavin profile

Hugh Gavin playing for the Ireland U20s in a friendly. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

“That’s always been the big dream but, I suppose your dreams change when I was 12 and 13 all I wanted to be, was a Wegian.”

This February the U20 Six Nations and among the up-and-coming young prospects representing Ireland is Galwegians own Hugh Gavin.

The 19-year-old Salthill native began playing rugby in Crowley Park at the age of six and from there on his love for the sport grew. Hugh played the age group above his own for the first couple of years under coaches Mickey Sherlock, Gerry Lowry, and Gary Gillanders along with his Dad and former club captain Barry Gavin whom he credits for his success and also that of his teammates “that coaching panel were really good for the club with so many of us going up and playing with the seniors and even playing provincial it’s a real credit to the coaches.”

Gavin impressed at the underage level earning himself a spot in the Connacht development squads before going to the next step representing the province in the u17 squad when they played against Munster.

The following year Gavin progressed into the Connacht U18s Inter Pro squad where he began to flourish “the first taste of a more professional environment and I really enjoyed that, I took to that and then I got my first Inter Pros start against Ulster”. Gavin went on to score two tries that day before coming off with a torn quad which would see him miss out on the rest of the competition.

After this Gavin worried that he might not be able to make his goal of reaching the Irish u18s Club squad but “luckily enough they took the chance with me and brought me in and that October I got my first international cap against Italy.

Since then the Galwegians man has gone on to play on the wing for the Connacht eagles in the summer development games, which lead to a conversation with Galwegians and Connacht legend Eric Elwood who offered Gavin his first Academy contract “it was a surreal moment in my rugby career, just to think that I put my head down and my hard work has paid off.” 

With many special moments coming in different shades of green jersey, Gavin made some special ones in the sky-blue jersey too. His favourite of which being his first AIL cap for his club “I was in Crowley Park watching the Seniors pretty much every Saturday from a young age and to finally run out myself in front of the fans and the club legends when the club means so much to them its nice to get out and do your bit for the team”.

While most 19-year-olds are enjoying college life Gavin is making sacrifices to ensure he can put his “best foot forward”, with training four days a week in the Connacht academy, the first-year Commerce student says it can be difficult to balance rugby and college work but he always finds time for his mates “You obviously have to give up a lot of the night Iife and you’re early to bed most nights but apart from that see my mates the days I’m in college and weekends it’s just the weekday stuff you can’t be at and you can’t be getting a takeaway with the lads the whole time”. 

Since being selected for the U20s squad Gavin has been training hard at different camps all over the country. With great squad depth, Gavin believes the squad is reaping the benefits of healthy competition “We’ve all been getting better week on week just pushing each other its class”.

 The Irish Under 20s take on Wales Friday the 3rd of February and we will be hoping to see Hugh get some game time under his belt and kick on for the rest of the campaign. 

By Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Kieran “Dint” Downey hits 50 AIL Caps

By Ciarán Ó Flaithearta

Zoom opened and Dint sat before me on my computer screen, baby Airlaith on his knee, which even though I have trained with him for the past two seasons and knew he was a dad it was still a little weird for me to see him holding a baby instead of a rugby ball.  Let’s look into who our club captain Kieran Downey is, as he marks his 50th AIL cap for the club this weekend.

Kieran Downey grew up in the southwest village of Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry, like most areas of Kerry a football stronghold. After watching the Six Nations on the telly one-year Dint decided he wanted to pick up the oval ball aswell as the round one to play with Castleisland rugby club “I started playing there as an eight-year-old and I haven’t really stopped since”.  

By the age of 16, he had won a Munster U16 title and reached an All Ireland semi-final with Castleisland where they were narrowly beaten in the Sports Ground “which was massive at the time for our club being just a Junior club and to be playing against the likes of big clubs like Buccaneers and to run them that close in an All Ireland semi-final was massive”. Dint went on to play Junior with Castleisland where he also captained that team “as a younger fella”. He played his first years in the AIL with both Kanturk and then Bruff while also making appearances at provincial level for Munster Under 18s and later on the Munster juniors for four years.

While playing rugby in college Dint earned his nickname, after a reoccurring cut caused a dent to form on the bridge of his “The boys in college started calling me ‘Dint’ and it just stuck from there. I know it’s a dent but it’s the way your man used to say it sounded like ‘Dint’,”

Dint moved to Galway with his partner in 2018 after building a house and getting jobs in the county, as so his journey with Galwegians began.

Dint had still been playing with Castleisland and Bruff when he moved to Galway but after training twice with Wegians, Beano asked if he would play against Nenagh the following weekend “I said yes, I didn’t really need to think about it”.

When asked to recall his first cap he responded with a laugh “oh I got sin-binned, and Abdulaq and I made our debut the same day.” He went on to play the next 4 games that season. The following season he signed over fully to the Galwegians and he’s played every game since, claiming the number eight jersey and in 2021/22 season he was asked by Ja to be captain, “and this year I wasn’t even asked I think they just assumed”.

Dint has come a long way since first pulling on the blue jersey in 2019 with the chance this Saturday to make his 50thappearance for the club vs Wanderers for Dint “it happened fairly quickly,…it’s a big mile stone, when you play one or two it’s a novelty but anymore than that your focus changes,.. but any big milestone like that is special”.

 Since making his debut in 2019 he’s had some memorable moments on the pitch, some of his least favourite being last years relegation battle “and any time we lose a derby to Corinthians is a poor moment even as an outsider”. But there have been some special ones too in the mix despite the latest result vs Enniscorthy the game before the Christmas break stood out to him “any day you score seven tries is a special one”, Dint having scored two of the seven himself, but a win vs Dungannon in 2019 stands out.“Dungannon away in 2019, its so hard to go up north and win away, we beat them quite convincingly, we actually kept them scoreless at home against a team from Ulster is very difficult to do, so that has to be one of my favourite moments”.

With all that now behind him Dint looks towards this weekend vs Wanderers “it’s about getting the points this weekend against Wanderers and then trying to take points away from Greystones and get ourselves up and running after the disappointing result last weekend”.

With 50 caps under his belt Dint is well and truly a Galwegian for him and he shows that through his leadership on and off the pitch and understanding what it means to be a Galwegian “Like the club song says it’s all about the show”.

Brendan Guilfoyle Profile

Where From? 

Urlingford Co. Kilkenny originally, but Limerick has been home for the past 20 years.

Age you started playing rugby?

12 in Thurles RFC.

Your position? 

Back row

Former Clubs? 

Thurles, Old Crescent, Buccaneers, Malahide, Thomond and Young Munsters

Representative Honours?

Up to U-21 with Munster and represented Ireland at Rugby League World Cup in 2008

Best Coach Ever Played Under? 

Mike Prendergast. Mike’s delivery and attention to detail was another level and I always learned and progressed through training and games under Mike. 

Best Teammate & Toughest opponent?

Some of my closest friend were part of an Old Crescent team from about 8 years ago so that group would be the best teammates I’ve had. 

I always liked playing in a local derby up against players I knew were tough or good. As an 8, it was usually an opposition 7 that I found the toughest. Leonard Slattery in Thomond and Ivan Muldoon in Wegians always stick out, but there were plenty more over the last 20 seasons of AIL. 

Biggest Influence on Your Career?

Matt Te Pou was my first senior coach and certainly instilled a lot of confidence in me that allowed me to push on with playing a lot of senior rugby as a young player. Watching Sonny Bill Williams play rugby definitely influenced how I’ve tried to play and coach over the years. 

Coaching Career to Date

Player coach at Thomond, Old Crescent and Malahide. Achieved AIL promotion with all 3 clubs.

Reflections on Wegians 2022 CSL Campaign? 

Very positive CSL that showed us the huge potential that is in Wegians. 

Ambitions for Wegians Seniors this Year? 

As a coaching team we want to bring out the best in the players. If we can achieve that then we believe we will be in a great position come the business end of the season. 

Shane O’Brien Profile

Men’s Backs and Skills Coach

Where From?


Age you started playing rugby?

Aged 8

Your position?

Out half

Playing Career Highlight?

Winning promotions with Old Crescent & Malahide. Senior & Junior Cup medals with Young Munster.

Best Coach Ever Played Under?

Hard to name one. I have been very lucky with coaches

Best Teammate & Toughest opponent?

John Shine always come to mind.

Biggest Influence on Your Career?

Nobody in particular, have met plenty good rugby people throughout my career

Coaching Career to Date

Young Munster U20s backs coach for two seasons.

Reflections on Wegians 2022 CSL Campaign?

Was happy with 3 wins and the commitment during pre season.

Ambitions for Wegians Seniors this Year?

To be in the mix for a top 4 finish

Jarrad Butler Profile

Where From? 

Paraparaumu, New Zealand

Age you started playing rugby – School or Club? 

9 years old

Your position? 


Former Clubs?

East Tigers Brisbane, Tuggernong Vikings Canberra

Representative Honours? 

Barbarians in 2017

Playing Career Highlight?

First professional cap

Best Coach Ever Played Under?

I’ve learnt a lot from many coaches

Best Teammate & Toughest opponent?

 I’ve had lots of great teammates, my toughest opponent was probably Ma’a Nonu. 

Biggest Influence on Your Career? 

My mum. She got me to all the trainings and games growing up.

Coaching Career to Date.. Clubs…

 2019-2021 Galwegians women seniors, 2022-Current Galwegians mens seniors.

Reflections on Wegians 2022 CSL Campaign? 

Really positive preseason with a strong core group of guys.

We’ve made some massive strides in how we want to play and we saw that in a number of performances in the CSL.

Ambitions for Wegians Seniors this Year?

I believe we have everything we need to be in the fight for promotion at the end of this season.

Personally I want to instill pride into our defence and make it a real weapon of ours.

Don Crowley – RIP

Don Crowley
Don Crowley

It is with huge regret that we announce the passing of our former club President and one of our seven past Presidents of the IRFU, Don Crowley, on August 16th peacefully in the loving care of his family.

A Galway City native educated at The Bish, Don was a distinguished open-side flanker during his playing career. He won a Connacht Schools Senior Cup medal and captained Connacht Schools XV, before studying engineering where he won a Connacht Schools Senior Cup medal with UCG. However at club level he would go on to have a life-long association with Galwegians, with whom he also won a Connacht Junior League medal.

After hanging up his boots, Don retained his involvement with Wegians where he became a club legend and one of our greatest ambassadors. He had the honour of being President of Galwegians during the famous club tour of Canada in 1977. After serving as club President, he then went on to serve his province in a lengthy and distinguished career. His administrative talents saw him serve as Hon. Secretary of the Connacht Branch from 1981 to 1989, before being elected Branch President for the 1993/1994 season.

At national level his abilities were soon spotted, and he was first elected as a delegate to the IRFU Committee in 1987/88. He would sit on a range of various sub-committees, notably the Charitable Trust for 11 years. In 2002/03 he achieved a personal ambition when he was elected to the highest office in Irish Rugby by becoming President of the IRFU. Quoted at the time, he said: ““I am very proud on a personal level and also for my club Galwegians and the Connacht Branch. After my very enjoyable playing career, I was very happy to serve the game at club, provincial and National level.” 

That year his club Galwegians held a celebratory dinner in his honour where over 300 friends and club colleagues attended a memorable event in the then Galway Radisson Hotel. It would also prove to be a momentous season, as the fate of Connacht rugby and its funding was under serious threat from the IRFU at the time. However under Don’s Presidency and stewardship, and with strong public backing from the grassroots rugby community, the province’s professional status was preserved.

A hugely popular man, Don’s efficiency and personality made him perfect for the role of liaison officer to major touring teams coming into Ireland down the years, including the All Blacks, Australians, South Africa, the Barbarians, Italy, Canada and Fiji. Tributes have been pouring in for Don since news of his passing, best summarised by Galwegians President Frank Kinneen who described him thus: “Don Crowley ..our incredible statesman, life-long member of Galwegians and an absolute gentleman. May he rest in peace.”

Don is survived by his loving wife Vicky and children, so to them and his extended family we extend our heartfelt sympathies.

Galwegians – 100 Not Out

President Carl Blake

As we finish the season 2021-22, we have many reasons to reflect on a year of progress for our great club Galwegians RFC. Let’s remember that before the season started last autumn, we had just endured 18 months of lockdown, when we had virtually no rugby nor even any social activity. So to end a season which saw all of our teams able to field and compete, and with social occasions near back to normal, we have many reasons to be grateful for the season past.

Of course there were some significant milestones along the way. We are well into our centenary year, and there are some exciting plans about to be unveiled by our centenary working committee in the coming weeks. However as well as celebrating 100 years past, I want us to look forward with optimism that our club will be around for the next 100 years. 

The sale of our grounds Crowley Park in December was a hugely significant moment in this. Remember that the deal negotiated sees our new landlords GMIT (or now the ATU) giving us a lease of up to 10 years to remain in Glenina, until we find our new home. In the coming weeks we will be spending our recent Sports Capital grant on some vital upgrading of facilities. And with the sale out of the way, the committee, and especially the Development sub-committee, can now really focus its attention on finding a location to develop fit-for-purpose grounds. This will safeguard our long-term future as a vibrant thriving club serving the needs of our local community.

In terms of the here and now, it’s time to focus on our exciting plans for next season on and off the field. Work has already started, and I believe that our adult teams, men’s and women’s, have good reason to be optimistic for 2022-23. Our underage structure is of course vital, and last week our Youths coaches and managers had a very energetic and inspiring session to set out our stall for the season ahead. We all know that we are in a very competitive space with other clubs, and not just rugby. But we are up for the challenge and ready to play to our strengths to put our best foot forward. 

Let’s not forget though that to run a successful amateur club, we will always rely hugely on volunteers.  We are blessed to have some terrific role model volunteers in Galwegians, who give so selflessly of your time. One of my most difficult tasks this year was choosing the Club Person of the Year. Abe Afolabi was a hugely deserving winner, but there were so many stand-out contenders to choose from. We just need to find a few more to spread the load.

This weekend gives a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this. We have ca. 30 volunteers signed up to roll up their sleeves and help out in the Club Clean-Up to spruce up the clubhouse and grounds. If you haven’t yet signed up, please lend us a hand if you can. 

Can I also encourage as many people as possible to attend our AGM next Wednesday evening (June 15th 7pm) to reflect on the year past, and make some positive contributions for next year. 

Finally, to all our volunteers who have helped out this year on or off the field in whatever capacity, I just want to express my sincere thanks for all that you have done. There were so many highlights that I will treasure for many years in remembering my term as club President. It has been a real privilege to serve you. While I hand over to my successor next week, I will certainly remain active next season. We all have a role to play, and I really look forward to working with you all to help us restore our rightful place as the leading club in Connacht.


Carl Blake,
President 2021-22

« Older posts

© 2023 Galwegians RFC

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑